MIDDLETOWN, Ohio – This Ohio city has a message for homeless people: You are not welcome here.
In Middletown, a city of 51,000 north of Cincinnati, officials opposed the expansion of a center that treats homeless people struggling with addiction.
The city created a “homeless crisis team,” which included the assistant city manager and police chief, to sweep the downtown and arrest people without housing. Over six weeks, the team arrested 94 people.
“We don’t want to make this a comfortable place for them to live. Get them off the streets to where they can’t live by their rules,” City Councilmember Zack Ferrell said in a Facebook comment to a resident.
City leaders across the U.S. have attempted a variety of measures to deal with people without housing on their streets: Los Angeles declared a state of emergency and plans to get over 17,000 people into housing this year; New York City officials are now authorized to involuntarily commit people; Cincinnati cleared encampments.
In Columbus, efforts to combat homelessness are led by the Community Shelter Board. The nonprofit helps about 15,000 people each year find shelter and permanent supportive housing.
Few experts on the topic recommend Middletown’s approach, saying it’s ineffective and, in the long run, more costly. Formerly homeless people interviewed by The Enquirer said recovery housing rather than time in jail was crucial for them to become self-sufficient residents of Middletown.
Ferrell told The Enquirer he believes the Middletown’s efforts to sweep downtown have had a “major impact.”
“On almost an everyday basis right now, I have citizens reaching out to me, telling me they feel more safe and comfortable to walk their animals or walk to different downtown businesses,” he said.
Screw the experts. It’s not the job of the good citizens of Middleton to help vagrants become self-sufficient. They can go somewhere else to become self-sufficient and then move back. More often than not, people will not change their ways until they hit rock bottom. The failure of our public policy is that we have lined the rock bottom with pillows so that people are more comfortable living on the streets doing drugs than they are getting cleaned up.